Friday, June 01, 2012

In Depth Isms

The current exhibition, ...isms: Unlocking Art's Mysteries, is drawing to a close. Assistant Curator Amanda Burdan, who left in April to take a position at the Brandywine River Museum, shared her thoughts about some of the paintings on view. Over the next week we will post her insightful articles.

Frederic E. Church, A Catskill Landsape, ca. 1858

Included in the current exhibition in a section entitled, “Romanticism,” the work of Frederic Church might be more readily associated with the term “Hudson River School.” Not a bricks-and-mortar school, but a style of painting, the Hudson River School artists were known for their great attention to detail, rendering minute details of grass, leaves, or rocks to advertise both their observational skills and their technical prowess. The “Romantic” aspect of this kind of painting can be found in the subject matter, usually a natural scene of great, awe-inspiring beauty that emphasized the sublime aspects of the world.

During a period when Church was sought out out exalted views of volcanoes, terrifying icebergs, and exotic rainforests for his paintings, A Catskill Landscape may seem a tame subject. When Church visited the Catskills with his new bride in 1860, the area was already a fashionable resort.  Sightseeing tourists enjoyed “sunrising,” gathering early in the morning to meditate on the panoramic view from hilltop vantage points   Church’s treatment of the scene accentuates the dramatic aspects of the wild foliage and distant mountains by lighting them with a blazing atmospheric effect.   His scientific study of nature helped Church achieve a likeness so convincing that viewers thrilled to be transported to his wild locales, even if they were as close to home as the Catskills.

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